Hamilton is almost uniquely suited in terms of geography, climate, and natural soil quality to provide much of its own food within its own borders.
By Jason Allen
Published August 25, 2010
There has been a lot of conversation in our house recently as to whether or not Hamilton could ever feed itself - not the exurbs, or rural part of Hamilton, but if worse came to worst, could the downtown produce enough of its own produce to stave off any kind of food security crisis.
Lord Cameron, the head of an agency set up to study the British countryside, famously said that society is "nine meals from anarchy". The first day of not knowing where your next meal will come from is tolerable, the next one worrying, and the third panic-inducing.
Now keep in mind that with the just-in-time mantra and tiny stockrooms of most grocery outlets, there are usually no more than three days of food on any given supermarket's shelves. This is true not only for supermarkets, but for the cities they are in as well.
So I have harped on this topic before, and will do so again - between Hamilton's very active Eat Local community and the farmers right in our midst, we are starting to take some shaky steps on the road to food security.
I do want to borrow a page from a blog I am fond of, though, and take a little walk around my neighborhood.
In Strathcona, there is a park about 30 yards from my house with a big community garden. That's a great start. I also have Russ and Backyard Harvest at the end of the street, and around the corner at the local poet's house on Locke.
Those are the obvious ones, but What about the not-so-obvious? What about the guy across the street from Russ who has what seems to be a massive tomato patch in his back yard? I also happen to know of another neighbor in Strathcona who is heavily in to intensive, high-yield backyard gardening.
All great steps, but sometimes the steps are even more subtle.
One of the most important features of permaculture is the interplanting of fruit and nut trees with your low-rise vegetables. It was about a week ago (while doing my surveys for Hamilton Civic League) that I finally introduced myself to my neighbor with the apple tree in her backyard - apples she considers a nuisance, but that I consider a great source of homebrewed cider. A deal was quickly struck.
One block further than Russ down Peter Street are two big serviceberry trees. Out west, we call them Saskatoon berries, and they make amazing jam. Every year since we've been here, they have been eaten by the birds in a neighborhood where nobody a) knew what to do with them, or b) had the guts to ask the homeowners for permission to harvest them.
Finally, right across York over on the Dundurn castle grounds are the original apple orchards, harvested from time to time by the good folks at Hamilton Fruit Tree.
All of this is to say that predictions of doom and gloom aside, Hamilton is almost uniquely suited in terms of geography, climate, and natural soil quality to provide much of its own food within its own borders. Now we just have to take one more teensy weensy little step and we will be well on our way.
This article was originally published on Jason's blog.
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